mRNA can direct dose-dependent protein expression in cardiac muscle without genome integration, but to date has not been shown to improve cardiac function in a safe, clinically applicable way. Herein, we report that a purified and optimized mRNA in a biocompatible citrate-saline formulation is tissue specific, long acting, and does not stimulate an immune response. In small- and large-animal, permanent occlusion myocardial infarction models, VEGF-A 165 mRNA improves systolic ventricular function and limits myocardial damage. Following a single administration a week post-infarction in mini pigs, left ventricular ejection fraction, inotropy, and ventricular compliance improved, border zone arteriolar and capillary density increased, and myocardial fibrosis decreased at 2 months post-treatment. Purified VEGF-A mRNA establishes the feasibility of improving cardiac function in the sub-acute therapeutic window and may represent a new class of therapies for ischemic injury.